I LOVE THE SCHOOL RUN.
Well it's not perfect. Getting them into the car on time is a trial. I usually start saying "It's time to go" about ten minutes before it's time to go. I keep the kitchen clock, the one we all use, about 7 minutes fast.
I do an independence check before we set off. What I mean is, children can get dependent on us for basics, and because it's easier for us to check they've got everything, they can end up a bit reliant on us. It's called "learned helplessness". I learned that at a Blue Sky training session.
So I say "Right, everybody, check you've got everything, we're not going back once we're going."
And soon as you're driving, it can be a great time for fostering.
You're together, in a pleasant enclosed space that's intimate, but not artificial. You're all facing the same way, going in the same direction. The end is in sight, it's not controlled by yourself; when you get where you're going, they are off and out. But in the meantime they can't get up and scarper, and if you play it softly softly, they sometimes open up, just a little.
I try not to lead the conversation, or at least not obviously.
I asked a child yesterday who they wanted to buy Christmas presents for this year, and the revelation that the child deliberately omitted one member of its family pretty much confirmed something about that family member we'd all been wondering about but didn't know how to elicit.
One time I had two children in the back, a teenager and an infant. (Yes, the car seating plan had been approved...) The teenager had railed and ranted about every aspect of being fostered from the moment they arrived. Shouted that they shouldn't be in care, that fostering sucked, was all wrong, they should go home for ever on the next bus.
I'm concentrating on the roundabout, but I hear this - and these are the exact words, I recorded them verbatim.
Infant: (very whispered) "How long have you been in fostering?"
Teenager: (also whispering) "About three years."
Infant: "Why are you in fostering?
Teenager: "Well, it's complicated. My dad did something with one of my family that was wrong, and I suppose they were worried I might get hurt."
This was priceless. The teenager was doing great parenting, supporting the concept of fostering, caring about the infant.
Infant: "Are you going home?"
Teenager: "I wanna, but they have to think about if it's gonna work, and if everybody's gonna be happy."
I felt like whooping, because this was what we'd been on about with the teenager from day one. But more than that, this young person, damaged almost beyond belief, was showing a tender support to the infant, a type of care that was doubling up both of their chances of moving forward.
In the days that followed the infant experimented with many of the teenager's negative behaviours. Used language best confined to football stadiums, became a dab hand at slamming doors and throwing luggage downstairs so it landed in the hall without any deceleration from the stairs.
The infant also learned, for sure, from a source much more reliable than any Foster Carer or Social Worker, Police Officer, Guardian... (the list is endless), that fostering is, though the child may hate it, pretty much the best thing for them at the time in question.
All thanks to the school run, so help me. We should have our own lane.
The Secret Foster Carer